Someone recently asked me during a dinner party why I decided to write historical fiction. I had, after all, up until just a couple of years ago, written nothing but non-fiction. What is it about historical fiction? What makes it so charming? And what ensures its continuing popularity? I will gladly admit that I’ve always been a bit of a history buff and enjoy researching different eras and cultures. But my love of this genre goes well beyond that.
Why does anyone even bother reading books? What pleasure do people derive from a well-spun tale? I think most would argue that a good story takes us away from our daily hum-drum. We trust the author to provide us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a completely different world as soon as we turn the pages of a book to the first chapter.
Who among us has not imagined ourselves or our alter ego, living in another period? Perhaps we think we were born in the wrong century and believe we would have felt more at home way back when. Or maybe it's a yearning for a simpler time, or a desire to live in another country. Perhaps we're looking for an opportunity to meet our cherished heroes. Or we wish to right one of history’s horrific wrongs. After all, there have been many! If that’s you, then you are probably already a fan of historical fiction and many of its sub-genres. There are so many to choose from: Romance, horror, mysteries, tragedies, westerns, etc. set in history ready to captivate their readers and bewitch them with a sense of another time and space.
Stories from our past expose us to unfamiliar cultures, and sometimes even the strange aspects of our own. It shows us who we were as a people, but also provides a map to our future. An astute reader might even pick up on the commonality of all faiths and nations when our basic needs were exposed, rawer.
Historical fiction affords a writer the rare opportunity to right wrongs. We can create a story starring historical figures in a new light. We can restore them to life although theirs was stolen, or exact justice although they received tragic condemnation. We can even award posthumous accolades to the heroes who left us all too soon. After all, it is fiction, and nowhere does it say we can't ask: What if...?
For a storyteller, this genre requires more research than most other forms of writing. This is my favourite stage of the writing process! I get to transport myself to that time and place in history and "experience" (albeit second-hand) the same things as the people of that time. Using modern-day phrases, or mentioning inventions that have not yet been discovered, could negate all of my efforts. However, despite the extra challenges, or possibly because of them, I feel it is also the most rewarding type of writing. It allows me to introduce the relatively unknown people and periods in history while indulging my inner history buff and storyteller in the process.
Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl Empress, A Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Goodreads.
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